Maitland Blacks lose to pumped up Merewether Carlton

BIG GAME: Max Stafford (pictured) and John Birrell battled hard to keep Maitland in the game.
BIG GAME: Max Stafford (pictured) and John Birrell battled hard to keep Maitland in the game.

“There’s no sugar coating it, it was very disappointing.”

That was the frank assessment by Maitland Blacks co-coach Ryan McCormack after his sides upset 19-12 loss to Merewether Carlton on Saturday.

McCormack has called for a major lift in energy against bogey side The Waratahs at Marcellin Park for this Saturday’s Ladies Round.

“An error-ridden first half got us playing catch-up football right from the first five minutes,” McCormack said.

“It was too little, too late at the end. Merewether obviously came out with their season on the line ready to fire.

“We spoke about energy a lot during the week, it was disappointing for the guys as much as it was for us (the coaches) in the way they performed.” 

Merewether led 14-0 at halftime through tries to debutant prop Jacob Penfold and Frazer Price. 

Sam Rouse, who converted the early tries, scored in the corner early in the second half for 19-0.

The Blacks responded with a try to Michael Howell and conversion to Jono Maloney but the Greens held firm until the final minutes when Maloney scored for 19-12.

Maitland remain in the top five and managed to get a bonus point from the game despite lacking the intensity of their past two games when they pushed competition leaders Hamilton and Wanderers respectively.

The exceptions in the drop-off of energy were young back Max Stafford and forward John Birrell who played at right flanker.

“It really was a case of the Max and Bizz show for most of the game,” he said.

“They were everywhere trying their hardest. It was a terrific effort by them.

“The little things, dropped ball, one-on-one missed tackles the real simple stuff that we got right in the past couple of weeks were missing.

“Whether or not we were still a bit flat from the close losses the last couple of weeks, I don’t know, but the reality was we weren’t at our best and Merewether made us pay for it.

“Not having Rhys Watson and James Robinson there were big losses come scrum time, but the guys who stepped in the Sap (Peniata) and Laurence Burdekin both put their hands up and filled that void.

“I guess it was a team performance yesterday, there was no individual area. We talked about patience and not throwing the 50-50 passes and for some reason we just did it on the weekend. 

“In the end we are still in the top five, we are not all doom and gloom but we are certainly we’re making it hard for ourselves.

“We’re now in the raffle for a position in the finals now, rather than creating a bit of a buffer on the lower half of the ladder.”

Maitland are now five points behind fourth-placed Lake Macquarie.